The little town of Bellingen has a population of around 2800. It is in a valley alongside the Bellinger River. The different spellings come from the German tradition of river names ending in "er" and town names ending in "en".
It is close to the Dorrigo National Park, a World Heritage area. Dorrigo Plateau climbs to more than 1000m and has expansive views across the mountains, over the Bellinger Valley and along the coastline.
The Bellinger Valley, including Bellingen, was first settled by the Gumbaynggir people. Once known as Boat Harbour, it became Bellingen in 1870. Early in its colonial history it was a backwater where red cedar was logged and shipped to the mouth of the river. From the 1840s, red cedar attracted more and more settlers, and the valley, once covered by cedar forest, became cleared for farming.
Most of the town centre was built between the 1860s and 1890s, by which time it had become the hub of a dairying area.
The main street has a village atmosphere, with pubs, general stores, shops and leafy trees. The two-storey timber, stone and iron lace Hammond & Wheatley Emporium dominates the town and evokes memories of a time when it supplied merchandise and general supplies to the early settlers. It now caters for visitors with arts, woodcrafts and fashion.
Bellingen has a strong affinity with the arts and is home to four annual festivals: the Global Carnival, the Bellingen Jazz and Blues Festival, the Stamping Ground Dance Festival and Camp Creative.
The Bellingen Jazz and Blues Festival began in 1990 and music lovers head there for three days of live music in August each year. Jazz by the Riverside brings thousands of people together to enjoy music and picnic on the banks of the river.
There are many venues over the three days, including The Federal Hotel, Memorial Hall, Church Street, Community Markets and the Showground. The spread of locations gives a terrifically vibrant and buzzy atmosphere. There is jazz on the footpaths, by the pub and in the park. There are intimate jam sessions in small cafes, a big dance band, cocktail party and late sessions in clubs.
The Bellingen Community Markets are held on the third Saturday of each month. They have been held in Church Street for 26 years, and each market has around 250 stalls.
Traditionally, country markets were held to create a central place for people to sell their produce and wares and to socialise with friends not often seen. The people of Bellingen still enjoy that tradition.
There are some delightful places to stay in Bellingen and Getaway had a look at Lily Pily Country House. The purpose-built eco sensitive guesthouse is on a 32-hectare sheep and poultry farm. Large tracts of rainforests are home to a wide range of birds and animals, and platypus can be seen in the river.
Lily Pily has three individually decorated suites, each air-conditioned and with a private deck overlooking the river and rural scenery. The owners, Felicity and Brian Sherratt, have decorated Lily Pily with many interesting pieces they have collected on their extensive travels.
Quality bedding has been used, and guests are greeted with a glass of sparkling wine. A four-course breakfast is served until noon, so you can sleep in and not miss out! Home-baked afternoon tea is also served. Felicity is the chef and Brian is a most capable barista.
The guest lounge and dining room have comfortable sofas, a library and an extensive selection of coffee table books and magazines. For year-round comfort there is a cosy log fire in winter and air-conditioning for summer. Candle-lit, silver service three-course dinners can be enjoyed in your room or on your verandah, and picnic baskets can be made up to take when you go exploring.